The Earth shines less in space: climate change has obscured it

By analyzing the variations in the faint brightness reflected from the Earth to the Moon and the data collected by two NASA satellites, an international research team led by scientists from the New Jersey Institute of Technology determined that the Earth, compared to 20 years ago, has lost 0.5 percent of the reflectance or albedo. Climate change is the cause – here’s why.

I climate changes are considered the most serious threat to thehumanity due to multiple reasons; fromsea ​​level rise (which will make entire islands, metropolises and coastal regions sink underwater) to deadly heat waves, passing through Drought, famines, extreme weather events, loss of biodiversity, global resource wars, spread of infectious diseases and much more. Not surprisingly, some researchers believe that civilization as we know it today could disappear by 2050. But the global warming it can have decidedly more unpredictable and curious consequences than we might expect; for example, research from the Chinese Academy of Sciences determined that it ice melting triggered a shift in the axis of rotation of the Earth, while a study by the prestigious Harvard University found that due to the crazy climate the earth’s crust is deforming. The latest survey on the subject has instead found that climate change they made the Earth darker, causing her to lose it 0.5 percent of the reflected brightness (albedo) over the past 20 years.

To determine that climate change has made our planet less “bright” was an international research team led by scientists from the New Jersey Institute of Technology (United States), who collaborated closely with colleagues from the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands, the Department of Astrophysics of the University of La Laguna (Spain) and the Department of Physics of the University of New York (NYU). The scientists, coordinated by Dr. Philip Goode, a researcher at the Big Bear Solar Observatory of the Californian institute, reached their conclusions after combining the data of two distinct analyzes: on the one hand, the variations of the so-called “earthshine“, Or the weak brightness reflected from our planet to the shadow side of the Luna (the Earth reflects 30 percent of the light received from the Sun); on the other, the measurements collected by the satellites of the NASA Clouds ed Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES), specialized in the study of clouds.

By crossing all the data, as indicated, the terrestrial reflectance or albedo it has dropped 0.5 percent in recent years, with our planet reflecting “about half a watt less light per square meter than it did 20 years ago,” the study authors explained in a press release. But what does climate change have to do with the reduction of the Earth’s albedo? It should be borne in mind that there are two factors that influence the light reflected from our planet: the periodic variations in the brightness of the Sun (which were not observed) and the ability to reflect the light of the Earth. In this specific case, the researchers explain, a significant one was observed reduction of bright and reflective low clouds stationed in the eastern Pacific Ocean, a decline associated with an increase in sea ​​temperature which in turn is linked to climate change. “The decline in albedo came as a surprise to us when we analyzed the last three years of data after 17 years of near-flat albedo,” said Dr Goode.

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Put simply, fewer clouds means less light reflected back into space and more light radiation absorbed by the ocean, a process that determines the increase in the temperature of the planet and initiates a vicious circle of climate change. Scientists believed that global warming would favor the formation of bright and reflective clouds, which would increase the Earth’s albedo and mitigate the further rise in temperatures. ). But on the basis of what has been highlighted by the analyzes, climate changes “cancel” these clouds and favor a further rise in the fever of the Earth, also causing a darkening. The details of the research “Earth’s Albedo 1998–2017 as Measured From Earthshine” have been published in the specialized scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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